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Program and policy effects

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Chloe Gibbs, Jocelyn Wikle, Riley Wilson.

As women increasingly entered the labor force throughout the late 20th century, the challenges of balancing work and family came to the forefront. We leverage pronounced changes in the availability of public schooling for young children—through duration expansions to the kindergarten day—to better understand mothers’ and families’ constraints. We first show that mothers of children in full-day kindergarten spend significantly more time at work, less time with their children, less time performing household duties, and less time commuting with their children in the middle of the day relative to mothers with half-day kindergarteners. Exploiting full-day kindergarten variation across place and time from 1992 through 2022, combined with the narrow age targeting of kindergarten, we document the impact of full-day kindergarten access on parental labor supply, family childcare costs, and children’s subsequent academic outcomes. Our estimates of the maternal employment effects imply that full-day kindergarten expansions were responsible for as much as 24 percent of the growth in employment of mothers with kindergarten-aged children in this time frame.

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Sarah Guthery, Kathryn Dixon.

We use frame analysis to analyze the first iteration of the Texas District of Innovation policy, which allows districts to take exemption from state education requirements mandating the hiring of a state certified teacher. We analyzed 451 district policies and find the plans use very similar, and sometimes identical, language to frame both the problem of teacher shortage and their proposed solutions, even though the districts may be geographically and demographically different. The districts most often propose two solutions to the certified teacher shortage, 1) flexibility and 2) local control over teacher certification decisions, including hiring unlicensed teachers and locally certified teachers.

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Bradley R. Curs, Casandra E. Harper, Sangmin Park.

This quasi-experimental study examined the effectiveness of a one-time emergency financial relief program among Pell Grant eligible undergraduate students in Spring 2015 pursuing their first bachelor’s degree across academic and financial outcomes. The academic outcomes included retention to the next semester, degree completion, attempted credit hours, and grade point average. The financial outcome captured whether students received a stop registration hold due to an unpaid financial balance in the semester after receiving the emergency relief. The results reveal that financial relief applied to low-income students’ accounts can improve their retention and graduation rates. The financial relief was most effective among first-generation college students, resulting in a complete elimination of the retention gap for first-generation students. The emergency relief did not improve GPA or substantially change the number of credits earned. A concerning finding was that students receiving this emergency support were more likely to receive a financial hold in a subsequent semester and that effect was stronger among students of color (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latine, Asian, Multiracial, American Indian/Alaska Native), males, and first-generation college students.

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Sara R. Sands.

Despite the popularity of teacher leadership since the 1980s, little research examines its effects on student achievement. In this paper, I assess the influence of the New York City Department of Education’s Teacher Career Pathways program, a teacher leadership initiative, on student achievement in grades three through eight. Using difference-in-difference approaches, including new event study estimators, I find that where school leaders staffed teacher leaders into formal roles with defined responsibilities, positional authority, and commensurate salary increases, student achievement in ELA and math improves. Moreover, the improvement in scores compounds over time, with schools exhibiting increasing gains in each year following the initial introduction of teacher leaders. Schools that do not staff teacher leaders do not observe similar outcomes. I consider these results in the context of democratic policymaking and teacher empowerment, suggesting that teachers must be formally empowered in schools to lead meaningful changes that ultimately improve student achievement.

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David B. Monaghan.

“Free college” (sometimes called Promise) programs are common in U.S. higher education. Reviewing 88 studies of 25 state and local programs, I provide a nuanced picture of the mechanisms through which these programs may work and their likely effects on students, communities, and colleges. Some commonly-claimed mechanisms for these effects—e.g., improving secondary school environments or impacting residential decisions—lack empirical support or are implausible for most existing programs. Programs are consistently found to shift college-bound students to colleges where they can use more scholarship dollars, increase enrollment at eligible colleges, and (for generous local programs only) increase community school district enrollment. Less consistently, programs boost college participation and thereby degree attainment, but evidence for direct effects on college performance, persistence or completion net of enrollment is weak. There is insufficient or inconsistent evidence for program effects on secondary school performance and graduation, post-college income and debt, community population or property values, and inequality reduction according to gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

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Mark Duffy, Kri Burkander.

Drawing on qualitative data collected in a sample of colleges as part of a larger study on the implementation and impact of Assembly Bill 705 in California, this paper explores the rollout of corequisite reforms, focusing on the use of embedded tutors in introductory math and English courses as a strategy to meet to the needs of students. This paper highlights promising practices identified through extant research and fieldwork at study institutions, provides additional evidence on the value of the reform, discusses challenges, and makes recommendations for the field.

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David B. Monaghan, Crystal Almanzar, Madison Laughman, Allyson Ritchie.

Promise programs are discussed as a policy movement that began with the 2005 launch of the Kalamazoo Promise. Since then, programs bearing the Promise label or sharing similar features have spread across the higher educational landscape, appearing in most states and across postsecondary sectors. Simultaneously, scholarly literature discussing these programs has burgeoned. And yet, scholars and others are unable to formulate a clear conception of what a Promise program is and what if anything sets such a program apart from other scholarship programs (e.g., state need-based grants). In this paper, we examine how scholars have discussed these programs over time. We begin with the initial theorization of the Kalamazoo Promise as a case and observe its use as a prototype in the formulation of a general model once “Promise program” was established as a category. We follow how the spread and transformation of “Promise programs” was reflected in repeated partial reconceptualization. We find three competing conceptual models emerging in sequence: 1) a thick, place-based causal model derived as a generalization of the Kalamazoo Promise, 2) a thin empirical model crafted in the aftermath of the launch of the Tennessee Promise, and 3) a partially acknowledged minimal or symbolic model advanced haltingly in response to critiques of last-dollar community college state programs. Scholarly conceptualization is largely reactive to empirical program diffusion and transformation, though scholarly idealization may have played a role in this diffusion itself.

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Takako Nomi, Darrin DeChane, Michael Podgursky.

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is an applied STEM program first introduced nearly three decades ago to enhance the STEM content of Career Technical Education (CTE). Currently, more than 12,000 US high schools offer the program. Using data from three cohorts of public high school freshmen in Missouri, we investigate the impact of PLTW program offer (ITT) and participation (TOT) on initial post-secondary outcomes. We use a difference-in-difference (DiD) analysis for ITT and a principal score adjusted DiD to estimate TOT. The parallel trends assumption is explicitly tested. We find positive ITT impacts on STEM major declaration among students with higher STEM preparation levels, and this outcome improved substantially for PLTW participants. Impacts on college enrollment are less conclusive.

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Stefan Arora-Jonsson, Ema Kristina Demir, Axel Norgren, Karl Wennberg.

Research on school improvement has accumulated an extensive list of factors that facilitate turnarounds at underperforming schools. Given that contextual or resource constraints may limit the possibilities of putting all of these factors in place, an important question is what is necessary and sufficient to turn a school around. We use a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of 77 Swedish schools studied over 12 years to answer this question. Our core finding is that there is no “silver bullet” solution. There are, instead, several distinct combinations of factors that can enable a turnaround. The local school context is essential for which combinations of factors are necessary and sufficient for school turnaround. We discuss implications for research on school improvement and education policy.

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Carly D. Robinson, Katharine Meyer, Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, Amirpasha Zandieh, Susanna Loeb.

College students make job decisions without complete information. As a result, they may rely on misleading heuristics (“interesting jobs pay badly”) and pursue options misaligned with their goals. We test whether highlighting job characteristics changes decision making. We find increasing the salience of a job’s monetary benefits increases the likelihood college students apply by 196%. In contrast, emphasizing prosocial, career, or social benefits has no effect, despite students identifying these benefits as primary motivators for applying. The study highlights the detrimental incongruencies in students’ decision making alongside a simple strategy for recruiting college students to jobs that offer enriching experiences.

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